How to build a pizza oven

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Jamie Oliver cooks pizza with a wood fired oven
A traditional wood fired pizza oven is an equipment designed specifically for making pizzas, bread and other related meals with a simple floor of fire bricks and a wooden fire. Pizza ovens may be made of bricks, clay, concrete, stone, ceramics among other materials. pizza needs very high degrees of heat from below and above the oven, and therefore a pizza oven should be carefully designed to ensure that it fulfills this purpose. The oven may be either built using the raw materials or purchased as a partial or complete kit. A wood fired oven takes between 1 - 2 minutes to cook a ready to eat delicious pizza.

Wood fired ovens work by creating fire within a chamber with a solid floor and insulation overhead. Due to the insulation the heat gradually increases to very high temperatures of over 370°C (700°F), which are the required temperatures for cooking pizzas. From creating the initial fire to cooking a pizza generally takes 1 to 2 hours. Once the oven attains the required temperatures the fire is moved to the sides or back of the oven to give space for inserting the pizza into the oven. After the pizza is ready and removed from the oven, the residual heat can be used to cook other dishes that take less heat to ripen. The oven insulation ensures that the oven remains hot for many hours (12+) after cooking your pizza. Whether built of brick or cob, the ovens are aesthetically pleasing and adds to property's value; more to this they are generally admired by friends and family. Wood fired ovens are known for cooking of pizzas. However, they are very versatile in that they can further be used to bake bread, cook steak, roast meat, and prepare ingredients such as sun dried tomatoes.

Building of a pizza oven is fairly straight forward and entails completion of the following steps:

  1. Choose a size and adopt a plan.
  2. Source the materials.
  3. Foundation (out of wood, brick, stone etc).
  4. Hearth insulation.
  5. Sand bed and hearth of firebricks.
  6. Dome (out of bricks or clay).
  7. Chimney and flue.
  8. Insulation (out of vermiculite, perlite, fire blanket or a mix).
  9. Cladding and door.


Contents

[edit] Pizza Oven Types

Pizzas have been in existence since the 18th century, and along with the evolution of pizza, the methods of preparing pizza have also evolved. Nowadays, we have a variety of pizza ovens in the market offering various modalities of making the best pizza. These ovens vary in shape, size, capacity, mobility, as well as their suiting places.

When building a pizza oven, most people get confused in choosing the shape of the oven. We have both the Rectangular Barrel oven domes and Round Igloo oven domes for cooking pizzas. Most bakeries and eateries commonly use the Rectangular Barrel. Both the domes use the same procedure and produce even quality pizzas as none of them leaves cold spots in your pizza or bread. Professionals use the Rectangular Barrel Domes because it gives them more space and allows them to make more pizzas at a time. For personal (home) use, space and quantity are not an issue so either shape would suffice. Both the domes take the same amount of time to heat up.

[edit] Pizza Oven Building Plans

A number of building plans exist due to the wide range of techniques by which a wood fired pizza ovens can be built.

[edit] Choosing an Oven Size

The size of an oven largely depends on the quantity of the food to be cooked, the size of the pizzas, the available space, building materials and the available budget for the oven. Cob ovens are not as strong as brick and mortar ovens, hence are generally smaller in size. Moreover cob ovens are made of cheaper materials and so may be a priority for individuals with a constrained budget. Ovens constructed for restaurants and other commercial purposes need to be strong and large in size to enable entry of large and multiple pizzas. Disadvantages of large ovens may include the increased costs, the extra wood requirements to heat the larger area, and the extra skills to create a structurally stable oven.

Internal Dimensions Hearth Surface Area Dome Shape Recommended User
34" diameter (86cm) 907inch2 (5,808cm2) Igloo Small family cooking pizza
42" diameter (106cm) 1,385inch2 (8,824cm2) Igloo Large family
50" diameter (130cm) 1,963inch2 (13,273cm2) Igloo Restaurant
32" x 36" (82cm x 92cm) 1,152inch2 (7,544cm2) Barrel Small family
35" x 39" (90cm x 100cm) 1,365inch2 (9,000cm2) Barrel Large family
47" x 59" (120cm x 150cm) 2,773inch2 (18,000cm2) Barrel Restaurant

[edit] Time to Construct

The effort and time required to construct an oven depends largely on the material and size of the oven. Sourcing professional materials such as fire bricks and fire blanket can be difficult and time consuming depending on the country and the local industry. To make construction easier many suppliers of refractory products create pizza oven kits for sale which include majority of the difficult to acquire materials such as garden mud. For professional builder that has access to the required materials and skills, the construction of a large oven is comparably quick and easy as compared to an individual completing a 'do it yourself' construction on the weekends. Constructing a cob oven generally requires less skills and may utilize cheap and readily available materials. These ovens are recommended for start up builders as a means to gain experience on building pizza oven without incurring large expenses and time commitment for a large brick oven. The below table gives a rough guide for the time required to construct an oven whether by a DIY or a professional builder, with a kit or using raw materials. The durations provided include the time required to source the materials. For some individuals the time to construct may be more due to difficulty in finding the desired materials.

Internal Dimensions Material Shape Builder Kit Duration
34" diameter (86cm) Cob Igloo DIY Raw materials 1 - 2 days
34" diameter (86cm) Brick Igloo DIY Pizza oven kit 2 - 4 days
34" diameter (86cm) Brick Igloo DIY Raw materials 4 - 10 days
34" diameter (86cm) Brick Igloo Professional Builder Raw materials 1 - 2 days
35" x 39" (90cm x 100cm) Brick Barrel Professional Builder Raw materials 2 - 4 days
47" x 59" (120cm x 150cm) Brick Barrel Professional Builder Raw materials 3 - 5 days

[edit] Costs of Building a Wood Fired Oven

Historically wood fired ovens have been built by primitive men all the way through to the Romans and the modern society. Some Roman wood fired ovens still exist and can be viewed in the ruins of Pompeii. This style of ovens remains popular and is termed the 'Pompeii Pizza Oven'. Whether the oven is build from simple mud and straw, or more sophisticated bricks and materials, costs will vary wildly based on the source of the materials and size or extent of the oven and enclosure. If on a budget it is suggested that individuals look to source free or readily available materials to build the oven. Old second hand bricks which are not perfect for building of houses may be a good choice due to their cheap cost and the added features they bring to the oven. Building an oven entirely out of cob or simple mud may be wholesomely free if the raw material can be found naturally on the background of the property. When building a large oven with quality bricks, supporting structure and cover, and stylish cladding or mosaics, the costs definitely increases substantially. The below table shows the general cost ranges for individual DIY construction. When you deploy a contractor to source the materials and build the oven, the costs may also increase substantially. Another option is the purchase of a partially constructed oven to help reduce the burden of sourcing the materials.

Internal Dimensions Hearth Surface Area Dome Shape Material Cost
30" diameter (76cm) 706inch2 (4,363cm2) Igloo Cob $0 - 600
34" diameter (86cm) 907inch2 (5,808cm2) Igloo Cob $0 - 600
30" diameter (76cm) 706inch2 (4,363cm2) Igloo Brick $400 - $2,000
34" diameter (86cm) 907inch2 (5,808cm2) Igloo Brick $500 - $2,600
42" diameter (106cm) 1,385inch2 (8,824cm2) Igloo Brick $600 - $3,000
50" diameter (130cm) 1,963inch2 (13,273cm2) Igloo Brick $700 - $3,500
32" x 36" (82cm x 92cm) 1,152inch2 (7,544cm2) Barrel Brick $500 - $2,600
35" x 39" (90cm x 100cm) 1,365inch2 (9,000cm2) Barrel Brick $600 - $3,000
47" x 59" (120cm x 150cm) 2,773inch2 (18,000cm2) Barrel Brick $700 - $3,800
59" x 71" (150cm x 180cm) 4,189inch2 (27,000cm2) Barrel Brick $800 - $5,000
Further information: Cost of individual materials and Sourcing materials for building a wood fired pizza

[edit] Material

The material used in building a oven determines it's durability. There are a couple of other factors that affect the life of the oven but the material used is the most important factor. The material of the oven also determines how quickly the oven heats up, how long the heat lasts, how fast the heat dissipates, etc. Most of the ovens are either built with bricks or clay. every material has its own advantages and disadvantages. After fully understanding how these materials affect the quality of the oven, then you should decide on the material to use in building your oven. The quantity and types of material required depends ultimately on the oven size and style chosen.

[edit] Brick

Pizza oven build

If you are building an oven for personal home use then brick ovens are generally recommended. Brick ovens have low maintenance cost and are preferable for home use. Clay ovens require extra attention during construction and may peel or crack if not completed properly. Brick ovens use 3/4th of the heat from the wood fire and lose only 1/4th of the heat through the chimney. As a result these ovens are exceptionally fuel efficient. The high aluminium content fire bricks absorbs heat impeccably, have a very proficient thermal conductivity and heat withstanding features, which generally makes them ideal for extended use.

  • Materials
    • Fire Clay
    • Fire bricks
    • Sand
    • Mortar
    • Bricks
  • Tools
    • Bricklaying trowel
    • Plastering trowel
    • Rubber mallet
    • Spirit / builders level
    • Pencil
    • Square
    • Shovel

[edit] How many bricks do I need?

Material 32" x 36" (82cm x 92cm) dome 35" x 39" (90cm x 100cm) dome 47" x 59" (120cm x 150cm) dome 59" x 71" (150cm x 180cm) dome
Besser Blocks for Foundation (190 x 190 x 390mm) 40 43 61 75
Fire Brick for Hearth (76 x 230 x 110mm) 26 30 44 60
Fire Brick for Dome (76 x 230 x 110mm) 160 - 240 200 - 300 330 - 500 500 - 900
Bag of Cement 4 6 10 12
Bag of Sand 12 18 30 36
Insulation (Fire blanket) 3 m2 4 m2 5 m2 7 m2

[edit] The cost of the materials?

The below table lists example prices and estimates for the materials required for constructing a pizza oven. These are estimates only to be used as a guide. Actual material required and cost depend on the type of pizza oven, construction method, and the country the materials are sought from. If the standard red housing was to be substituted for the fire bricks the cost per brick would be considerably less. Values are in $USD.

Material Cost Generally Required Average Total Cost
Foundation Besser Blocks $3 each 60 $180
Fire Bricks (Hearth and Dome) $2 per brick 250 $500
Fire Clay $25 per bag 2 bags $50
Bag of Cement $5 per bag 20 bags $100
Reinforcement Steel $3 per meter 20 meters $60
Bag of Sand $4 per bag 30 bags $80
Insulation (Fire blanket) $75 per m2 sheet 4 m2 $300
Insulation (Vermiculite) $15 100L bag of Vermiculite 1 bag $15

[edit] Fire Bricks

A refractory brick, also called fire brick, is used in pizza ovens due to its ability to withstand high degrees of heat. These bricks are made with fire clay which has a high alumina content.

[edit] Refractory Mortar

Hand Mix Mortar
When flat fire brick joints are difficult or impossible, refractory mortar is used. Its maximum application should not be more than approximately 1/4" (6mm), because thicknesses above this are prone to shrink or crack the oven with time. It should not be used for filling the ovens holes or empty spaces. It is suitable for external use only, this means, it's used on the oven dome which is not in direct contact with the fire.

[edit] Cement

Cement is a powdery substance made from calcined clay and lime and it's used as a binder in construction. Cement can be mixed with other proponents at different ratios to form different building components like mortar and concrete. It's widely used in making pizza ovens. Depending on composition and color, cement is classified as follows:

  • High alumina cement
  • Acid resistant cement
  • Hydrophobic cement
  • Blast furnace cement
  • Acid-resistant cement
  • Expanding cement
  • Portland cement
  • Low heat cement

[edit] Clay (Cob / Earth / Horno / Adobe)

Making a clay oven

Clay is the pivotal material used for holding and joining all other materials when building a clay oven. Wet clay is sticky when wet and hard when dry. A clay oven provides humble user interface, it helps save a lot of space as the user can use the same space for firing up the oven and for cooking after removing the fire. The heat in a clay oven is evenly spread and distributed and therefore does not leave cold spots on the pizzas. Clay ovens remain hot for a long time so it gives you ample time for cooking your pizza.

For insulation and better results, clay is mixed with sand or straw. Sand reduces the shrinkage while straw provides the insulation. Depending on the local temperature and weather conditions in your area, you will need to make the right mix of clay, sand, and straw for best results.

  • Materials
    • Fire Clay
    • Soil
    • Straw
    • Sand
  • Tools
    • Protective gloves
    • Dust mask
    • Wheelbarrow
    • Level
    • Shovel

[edit] The cost of the materials?

In contrast to the traditional brick ovens, mud or cob ovens are considerably cheaper to build. When having a limited budget or no funds for materials, the entirety of the materials can usually be obtained from a backyard or elsewhere in a natural setting. For a quality and guaranteed long lifespan oven, it is recommended that an investment be made on either standard red builder bricks or fire bricks to build the hearth. This caters for a clean, reusable and dependable surface for placing food. Moreover it is recommended that a bonding agent such as hay or grass be utilized to prevent the breakdown of the dome over time. The hay acts as a binder within the cob holding the material together even when cracks form. The below table lists some of the common materials and estimates on required quantities and costs.

Material Cost Generally Required Average Total Cost
Sand Free or $4 per bag 5 bags $20
Newspaper $1 per paper 1 $1
Fire Bricks (Hearth) $2 per brick 25 $50
Mud Free Lots Free
Hay $5 per 50 pound square bale 2 $10

[edit] Building a Pizza Oven

By following the right guide, it's fairly easy to construct a pizza oven. The structure has some basic parts that enable the oven to function properly. All these parts are important and should be carefully constructed. The parts of a pizza oven include:

  • Foundation
  • Hearth
  • Dome
  • Vent
  • Flue
  • Chimney

[edit] Location

When Selecting a pizza oven site the following considerations should be taken into account:

Weather and shelter
A pizza oven should be placed in sheltered place to protect the oven from water and sun exposure. For outdoor placement of a oven, a simple pergola may be erected for shading. For indoor placement, the oven should be placed near or in the kitchen, and sufficient modifications to the building may be necessary to allow for the installation of the chimney. Benefits of having the oven inside may be that the fire will heat the house or room and the oven is readily accessible during bad weather.
Governmental or council laws and regulations
Existing laws may impose restrictions on the placement of a pizza oven, regardless of the location of a oven, Council approval or legal advice is required.
Fire hazards
As wood fired ovens utilize physical fire to heat up, it is important to consider the safety implications. Survey the environment surrounding the oven and ensure no flammables and no potential risks of injury to individuals like children. It is appropriate to ensure that the height of the hearth is high enough such that it is inaccessible by children. When the fire is burning it is possible for hot embers to pop, so distance should be kept from the oven.
Structural integrity of the foundation surface
When determining the surface for the foundation it is important to consider structural integrity. Due to the immense weight of the oven, it is advisable to erect the oven on a hard ground. If placement is made on a raised deck or veranda it may be necessary to seek the advice of an engineer or reinforce the strength of the surface that will take the weight.
Useability
Although pizza ovens are extremely beneficial and versatile, the placement of the oven may greatly determine the useability and frequency with which people will have the forethought to use the oven effectively. Placing the oven in a high traffic area such as a kitchen or next to a pool is more likely to be used often than when placed in a remote area infrequently visited or viewed.
Aesthetics
When designed and built properly pizza ovens may be quite aesthetically pleasing. The oven should be placed in an area where it can be seen and admired for its purpose and architectural design, whether traveling through or eating a meal which was made with the oven.
Property value
Property value may be increased by the addition of a pizza oven by more than the cost of sourcing and building the oven. When placing an oven individuals should consider the implications the oven will have when viewed by a potential future buyer of the property. Similarly a pizza oven placed in an inconvenient location, or an ill-designed oven in a prominent location may reduce the future property value.

[edit] Foundation

To begin the construction of the pizza oven foundation you first need to establish a solid flat surface. If building directly on soil this will involve removing of the grass with a spade to expose the soil. If you are to build on an existing structure you will need to ensure that the weight of the pizza oven foundation and the pizza oven itself will not cause any problems. As the materials used may be extremely heavy it is likely that if an oven was to be built on a wood platform cracks or other failures may occur. The structure may either be a stand alone or part of a larger structure such as a kitchen or outdoor kitchen. When building the foundation you should take into consideration the potential extensions which might be made including the addition of barbeques, sinks etc. The foundation may be made out of a variety of material including:
  • Wood
    • Railway sleepers
    • Hardwood planks
  • Bricks
    • Concrete besser blocks
    • Housing bricks
  • Stone

[edit] Shelter

For pizza ovens placed outside in direct contact with the elements of the atmosphere, a shelter will be preferable to protect the oven primarily from water exposure. A pizza oven is generally quite rugged and may withstand abuse from wind, snow, hail and water abuse. Issues can occur however if water is allowed to seep into the oven walls. For cod constructed ovens this may result in immediate structural integrity issues. For both cob and brick ovens water within the walls poses problems when firing the oven. The water contained within, heats up, turns into steam, attempt to escape, and may crack the oven walls. To curb this problem it is recommendable to build a shelter for the oven or the oven be built inside an existing structure. The structure may be built of any material which is structurally legal and aesthetically pleasing. Considerations should be made to limit fire outbreak risks, and to make sure that smoke from the oven has a suitable path of escape. A pizza oven placed directly under a roof without a proper chimney will likely destroy the roofing with smoke.

[edit] Hearth

Oven hearth with offset pattern bricks

The hearth is the main part of the oven used for cooking and it's where the pizza or bread is placed. The hearth is a slab rised a little above the base of the oven and is a clean flat surface of medium density fire bricks where the pizza is placed for cooking. The vault of the oven is the open space above the hearth within which hot air circulates. Fire bricks are used due to their ability to withstand the extreme temperatures generated by the oven fire. In order to prevent a build up of waste or debris between the bricks, the bricks are placed as close as possible together without the use of mortar. Mortar is not used as it will likely fail and crack over time. The sand upon which the bricks sit on enable for a completely flat surface and allows the bricks to be slightly adjusted with a rubber mallet. 32" x 36" (82 cm x 92 cm) is an ideal hearth size for home pizza ovens.

[edit] Dome

The width of the dome determines the cooking space while the height of the dome is generally 3/4th of the width. The main purpose of the dome is to contain and radiate the heat generated by the fire. The heat energy is evenly absorbed into the dome and then its radiated back and used for cooking after the heat source is removed. It is generally better to construct a brick or cob dome instead of utilizing a prefabricated dome. Prefabricated domes have a tendency of developing cracks and start peeling especially when poor quality refractory ingredients were used in the manufacturing process.

For air circulation and heating purposes it is important for the height of the dome and the door to be carefully measured. The ideal heights are generally around:

Entry door height: 10 inch (25.4cm) Vault height (internal): 16 inch (40.6cm)

The dome of a pizza oven can be constructed in a number of ways:

  1. Use wet sand to build a dome shaped form and then mortar the bricks by laying them against the form.
  2. Use wet sand to build a dome shaped form and then place wet news paper and cob over the sand.
  3. Cut a Styrofoam form to the dome's profile and place it inside your dome. Remove after the dome is completed.
  4. The most common is the free-standing dome which uses chains of brick circles that are built on top of each other and are self-supporting. A form can be used as a guide but is not necessary for skilled brick layers.
Internal Dimensions Hearth Surface Area Dome Shape Vault Height Door Height Door Width Foundation Pizzas (10")
30" diameter (76cm) 706inch2 (4,363cm2) Igloo 16" (41 cm) 10" (25 cm) 16" (41 cm) 53" x 66" (135cm x 145cm) 1-2
34" diameter (86cm) 907inch2 (5,808cm2) Igloo 16" (41 cm) 10" (25 cm) 18" (46 cm) 57" x 70" (145cm x 180cm) 2-3
42" diameter (106cm) 1,385inch2 (8,824cm2) Igloo 18" (46 cm) 11" (28 cm) 18" (46 cm) 65" x 78" (165cm x 200cm) 4-5
50" diameter (130cm) 1,963inch2 (13,273cm2) Igloo 22" (56 cm) 14" (36 cm) 18" (46 cm) 73" x 86" (185cm x 220cm) 7-9
32" x 36" (82cm x 92cm) 1,152inch2 (7,544cm2) Barrel 16" (41 cm) 10" (25 cm) 16" (41 cm) 55" x 72" (140cm x 180cm) 1-2
35" x 39" (90cm x 100cm) 1,365inch2 (9,000cm2) Barrel 18" (46 cm) 11" (28 cm) 18" (46 cm) 58" x 79" (150cm x 200cm) 3-4
47" x 59" (120cm x 150cm) 2,773inch2 (18,000cm2) Barrel 22" (56 cm) 14" (36 cm) 18" (46 cm) 70" x 99" (180cm x 250cm) 5-6
59" x 71" (150cm x 180cm) 4,189inch2 (27,000cm2) Barrel 28" (71 cm) 18" (46 cm) 22" (56 cm) 82" x 111" (210cm x 280cm) 10-12
[edit] External

The external surface of the pizza oven may be finished with either a cement or clay render cladding, a final brick layer, or tiled.

[edit] Vent / Chimney

Igloo dome cross section

In brick ovens, 1/4th of the heat diffuses through the chimney. The chimney helps in improving airflow through the oven. It helps blow out the smoke so that it doesn't blow out on your face. An enameled flue pipe can be used for the chimney. The height of the chimney depends on the size of the oven but, it ranges from 1 meter and above. Some people choose not to build a chimney in their ovens, however that limits the performance and effectiveness of the oven and may also cause excess smoke issues.

The vent of an oven can be constructed with bricks, cast, or steel. Each material has its own advantage depending on the usage. The vent of a pizza oven is usually on its outside, not inside. You can use a decorative material to hide the vent from the outside. The vent lets some heat escape the inner chamber/dome. There are two areas for placement of vents:

  1. Front
  2. Center

In traditional ovens the vent is located in the front, while in central designs the vent is located at the center of the dome and connects to the chimney for letting heat out. The center vent has the benefit of transferring the hot air over the top of the oven and may help improve heat disbursement. There is another design called "vent in the oven" where the vent is placed inside the oven behind rather than in front of the door.

[edit] Flue

Flue is the opening that allows the heat or gas to pass through the chimney. This opening should be placed at the face of the oven in front of the door. Flue draws smoke and exhausts gasses up and away from the oven through the chimney. If not properly placed the oven may release more heat than necessary and this affects the efficiency and performance of the oven. The flue needs regular cleaning to avoid obstruction of passing of the heat through the oven. It is necessary to use fireproof mortar for jointing the flue liners and the voids between flue linings must be insulated.

[edit] Door

A traditional wood fired oven for cooking pizza does not require a door. A door may be fixed to help reduce the time taken for the oven to heat up, to increase the time the oven retains heat after building the fire and maintaining temperature consistency. The door can be made of either iron or a hardwood. Iron is a good choice as it will not be affected by the high temperatures. Safety should be considered however, an iron door becomes extremely hot and can cause severe burns when touched. A wooden door has the benefit that it cannot cause such burns if maintained at a high temperature. However, the door may start to burn when exposed to extreme temperature and so it's suggested that wooden doors be soaked in water for at least an hour before use. A wooden door with a metal covering inside is another option of gaining the benefit of both materials. The height of the door should be determined by the height of the inner oven vault so as to improve airflow throughout. The ratio Vault Height : Door Height = 100 : 60. eg. A vault height of 18" (46 cm) correlates to a door height of 11" (28 cm).

[edit] Heat expansion

When the oven heats up, the dome expands. This expansion can cause cracks in the oven's dome. Heat-resistant insulation is applied on the dome which not only helps reduce cracking but also ensures the dome stays hot for a longer time by locking the heat. Either Perlite or Vermiculite can be used for this purpose. Extra coatings of heat-resistant insulation may be added on top of your oven dome to increase the times of cooking.

[edit] Thermal Insulation

How to Make Insulating Perlite Concrete for a Wood Oven

The dome of the oven needs thermal insulation which prevents heat loss. If the oven does not have proper thermal insulation, the dome loses heat quickly and is unable to cook. Our aim is thermally insulating the dome to maximize the duration in which heat can be preserved in it. There are different refractory insulation types from which you can choose from.

  • Perlite or Vermiculite can be used for dry and loose form of heat insulation.
  • Ceramic Fiber Blankets can be used for insulation as well. However, they are a bit costly but they provide excellent insulation and do not need any additional forms of heat insulation.
  • Perlite
  • Vermiculite
  • Ceramic Fiber Blanket

[edit] Cladding

Cladding is the final layer of the oven and may be either concrete or an additional layer of bricks. Some people prefer the aesthetics of a brick outer layer and so they utilize fire bricks for the internal dome, and then put a final cladding layer of regular building bricks over the top of the insulation. Not only is it cheap and easy to afford but also increases the amount of time that the oven stays hot consistently. Cladding proves to be an extra heat insulation for your oven and has many advantages including:

  • It serves as an additional layer of insulation and adds to the thermal mass.
  • It can cook items requiring less heat because the cladding, stores the heat for a long time.
  • It slows down the temperature drop of the oven.
  • Aesthetically improves the appeal of the oven.

[edit] Drying

Building a pizza oven is a tedious and time consuming task. For a perfect oven, it's recommended to let each layer dry after construction.

For instance, once the base bricks have been laid, it's important that the bricks are let to dry because the next stages of the oven construction require a solid base. If any cracks appear after the constructed base dries, the cracks can be patched with a more concentrated mix.

[edit] First Firing of the Pizza Oven

Before firing the pizza oven for the first time it's vital to ensure that all the materials have completely dried and that the concrete or mortar has cured. The longer the concrete takes to dry the more stronger and resilient it becomes, thus it is beneficial to wrap the oven in builders plastic or damp cloth to extend the drying time. Any water that does exist in the oven when the first fire is created will turn to steam and try to escape. Cracks mostly appear at this stage. For this reason it's imperative that the oven is given enough time to dry and the heating of the oven should be done gradually. Similarly as with brick ovens, cog ovens will benefit by drying slowly. When clay dries quickly the potential for cracks to develop in the surface is increased.

When creating the first ever fire in the newly built oven, aim at keeping the fire small and gradually increase the heat. Do not use larger pieces of wood for avoidance of rapid heat increase. The basic aim is to slowly build the heat to ensure that the oven is fully dried and cured, and that the potential for issues arising from residual moisture are minimized. The initial fire should be built up over a 6 hour period. After allowing the heat to dissipate over night the oven should be inspected for signs of weakness or cracks and perform the necessary repairs. On subsequent firing you may use larger pieces of wood and bring the oven up to its full potential.

[edit] Cooking with a Pizza Oven

Cooking using a pizza oven is always a fun experience and results to a great tasty and absolutely delicious pizza. The oven is designed in such a way that the entire pizza is evenly heated and cooked at a very high temperature which is not achievable with conventional gas or electric ovens. The high temperature adds flavor to the dish. For these reasons it is unsurprising that people in Italy where pizza originated still prefer to cook pizzas in wood fired ovens.

[edit] Pizza Oven Check Lists

[edit] How to Build the Oven

  1. Identify a suitable location which is safe, aesthetically pleasing, and easily accessible.
  2. Build the oven foundation out of wood, brick, or stone.
  3. Create a level surface for the firebricks. Generally out of cement.
  4. Place fire bricks on a bed of sifted sand and fire clay. Ensure the hearth is level, the bricks are butted up against each other and that there is no mortar used..
  5. Create a temporary structural support foundation for the building of the oven walls. eg. Sand or wood.
  6. Lay fire bricks or cob to build the walls, door and chimney of the oven.
  7. Apply a covering of aluminium foil over the oven wall.
  8. Apply a think layer of insulation over the oven walls. eg. Vermiculite / perlite cement or fire blanket.
  9. Apply a final aesthetic layer over the oven walls. eg. Brick or cement cladding.
  10. Allow the building material to fully cure and dry. One week or more.
  11. Remove temporary structural support and fire the oven for the first time with a very small fire.
  12. Over time slowly increase the intensity of the fires until the oven is at operational temperatures.
  13. Cook a pizza in your new oven at temperatures of around 370°C (700°F).

[edit] How to Cure a Pizza Oven

  1. Before making a large fire in your pizza oven you will want to cure it first. This will ensure a longer shelf-life of the pizza oven.
  2. Use dry wood for easy burning. Denser or wet wood tends to smoke in large quantity.
  3. Make small fires inside the oven to cure the walls slowly. This should be done over a period of five days to reduce the likelihood of issues.

[edit] How to Prepare a Pizza Oven Fire

  1. Scrunch news paper into balls and place in the middle of the oven.
  2. Place small twigs and branches over the news paper.
  3. Light the news paper.
  4. Continue adding small branches to build the heat of the fire.
  5. Gradually increase the size of the wood pieces to the fire.
  6. Always use dry wood to make the fire in your oven. Initially the oven may smoke however this will diminish as the heat builds.
  7. Burn the fire within the oven until the desired temperature has been reached.
  8. Push the fire to the back of the oven out of the way.
  9. Brush the hearth to remove ash.
  10. Monitor the oven and the temperature. When cooking pizza the door is generally open and a fire maintained. For other foods the fire is smothered and the door closed with the hot embers.

[edit] How to Cook a Pizza in a Traditional Oven

  1. Build a fire within the oven and bring it to around 370°C (700°F).
  2. Prepare your pizza dough.
  3. Create you pizza dough with toppings. Generally Napoli sauce, basil, olives, pepperoni, mozzarella.
  4. Move the fire to the back of the oven and clean the hearth of ash.
  5. Close the oven door for 2 minutes to allow the temperature of the oven to stabilise and become evenly distributed.
  6. Sprinkle flour on your wood paddle / peel.
  7. Slide the pizza onto the peel and then slide the pizza off onto the hearth.
  8. Depending on the temperature of the oven the pizza will cook from 90 to 120 seconds.
  9. Watch the pizza to be sure it does not overly cook on one side. Rotate with the peel if necessary.
  10. Remove the pizza with the peel. Allow to cool slightly before consuming.

[edit] How to Minimise Minor Cracks

Sometimes minor cracks form on the pizza oven walls. This is generally as a result of severe heat and/or improper materials utilized. It happens mostly during the normal heating and cooling process of the pizza oven. This is a normal disorder during the lifespan of a pizza oven and will generally not be a cause for concern. To minimize the cracks, ensure that the oven walls are completely dry before firing the oven.

[edit] General Tips

  • It may be better to use lighter colored wood to improve fire quality and food flavors.
  • Dense wood may make smoke and may potentially add a smoky flavor to the pizza.
  • Ideally the thickness of the dome insulation will be maximized so as to reduce the time required to heat the oven, increase the maximum temperature, and prolong the duration the oven stays hot.
  • Make the fire at the middle of the pizza oven at the start. Once the temperature has reached the desired heat level move the fire to the sides or back of the oven.

[edit] Maintenance

Cleaning a Wood-Fired Oven

Usually the only maintenance that an oven needs is regular cleaning. Once the oven is cold, you can use a rake to clean the ash accumulated at the center or the sides, and carefully sweep it out of the oven. The chimney of the oven also needs regular cleaning and check up. You might need to check for nests or other items stuck in it that may be hindering the passage of the heat. To keep your oven functioning properly, just clean it regularly and make sure the vents are clean with nothing stuck inside.

[edit] Common Problems

A number of common issues exist regarding pizza ovens in respect to their construction and usage. Issues which should be considered include:

  • Maintaining the correct temperature.
  • Preventing and fixing cracks.
  • Protection from the elements and water.
  • Ensuring crispy pizza crust.
  • Preventing hard pizza crust.
  • Preventing overly smokey flavor.
  • Preventing soggy pizzas.

[edit] Hidden problems with pizza ovens

[edit] Termite and under floor soil treatment

Cracks are one of the major problems with construction work in general. Cracking may be due to expansion of construction joints or poor construction materials. If a crack forms at the joining point of an oven floor and dome wall, it may allow termites to enter in a cob dome. Termites may loosen the soil under the floor or dome which may potentially lead to sudden breakage of the whole pizza oven. This type of reduction of the structural integrity of the under foundation soil is a hidden problems for any type of construction however especially for pizza ovens. Poison may be purchased specifically for the purpose of deterring termites from nesting. To apply poison or chemicals underneath the oven foundation, small holes with a diameter of 12 – 15 mm are created around the surrounding area. Termite poison or chemicals are injected into the created holes. The soil is saturated with chemicals to increase the duration that the deterrent will remain. A maximum of 1 liter of poison will generally be applied per hole. A number of different termite poisons and baits exist on the market to provide similar protection. Once the poison has saturated the surrounding soil the original holes should be sealed with a suitable cement or cob mixture.

[edit] Health and Safety

For your own health and safety, and that of others, do not use any asbestos containing material in your oven as it has been proven to cause lung cancer.

[edit] Vermiculite

Only use the new vermiculite products. Do not go for the old ones as the new ones are clean and do not contain any hazardous material but the old ones might. Make sure that the vermiculite you use is not contaminated with asbestos.

[edit] Fire

Always be cautious around fire and have a fire extinguisher around for emergency cases. Pizza ovens may become extremely hot (370 degrees Celsius) and thus may burn instantly. Be aware of the danger to pets, children, and the intoxicated. Rinse burns under cold running water for at least 15 minutes before seeking medical treatment.

[edit] Using the Oven

Do not use bare hands while the oven is hot. The extreme oven temperatures are likely to cause third degree burns on contact with human skin. Use long oven mits for protecting the hands and arms while handling pots or working with oven fire. Don't use liquid fuel such as petrol or lighter fluid when starting fire in the oven. The process may be dangerous and may lead to obnoxious flavors being absorbed into the surrounding brick. Don't use water to extinguish the fire. Water causes adverse affects on the oven like structural issues. Instead the oven should be allowed to cool naturally. Use a metal shovel and bin if the remaining ashes are to be removed. It's important to ensure that the ashes have cooled entirely before disposing them off. Do not smother hot ashes with dirt or sand while disposing. The ashes may remain hot under the surface and can create a safety hazard if individuals accidentally steps on them.

[edit] Sourcing Materials

Sourcing materials for building a pizza oven can be difficult due to the types of materials and techniques involved. If you have a free and easily accessible supply of clean clay then a cob oven might be the most practical approach. If a brick oven is desired then the key materials include brick, insulation and cement.

Cob oven materials
Foundation (eg. Brick, clay, wood (eg. Railway sleepers))
Sand to place the hearth and build the oven dome on
Fire bricks for the hearth
Clay
Hay
Brick oven materials
Foundation (eg. Brick, clay, wood (eg. Railway sleepers))
Concrete to place the hearth on
Sand to place the hearth and build the oven dome on
Fire bricks for the hearth
Builders bricks for the dome
Builders mortar
Fire blanket, insulating fire brick or vermiculite for the insulation layer
Mortar for the cladding

[edit] Videos

[edit] Brick Pizza Ovens

Pompeii Italian Brick Pizza Oven Construction
Secretos de la construcción de Hornos de Leña
Horno de Barro - ladrillo construccion
Building a wood-fired pizza Oven
How to build a pizza oven
Pizzaofen
Pizza oven James Mays Man Lab
How to build a pizza oven
How to Build a Wood Fired Pizza Oven Base
costruire un forno a legna artigianale

[edit] Clay / Cob / Earth / Horno Oven

How to make a cob oven or clay oven
How to build a clay oven
SolWest Cob Oven
How to Build a Cob Oven
Clay Cob Oven Video
Building a Cob Oven
How to Build an Earthen Oven
Cob Oven Building
How to build a cob oven

[edit] Pizza Oven Cooking Videos

Cob Pizza Oven
Ciabatta in a Wood Oven
Pizza in the Wood Oven
Baking in the Wood Oven
Pizza is a brick oven
Jamie Oliver pizza in a wood fired oven

[edit] See Also

[edit] External Links